By: A.K. Karos -
Bravery. What does it mean to be brave and how is it that we develop certain fears over time? Growing up, the two things that scared me most were needles and snakes. But after having two kids where I had to get my blood drawn numerous times and get jabbed by an epidural, a bit of the fear has diminished. I still can’t look at the needle or watch one puncture the skin, but I no longer get dizzy or shortness of breath whenever I have to go in to get a simple flu shot.
I’ve always wondered, how do we become scared of certain things? Do we inherently develop different phobias or are they triggered? Is it generics or environment? Honestly, a bit of both. When it comes to the cause of certain fears, much is still unknown. According to the Mayo Clinic, causes may include negative experiences, genetics and environment, and brain function.
My husband, Paul, has a severe fear of heights, a phobia that he tried to determine if he
inherited from his mother or was caused by her noticeable anxiety when facing those
situations. He initially attributed it to his mom’s reactions or steadfast denial of going onto rides like Ferris wheels or roller coasters, or her nervous manner when driving on a mountain road.
Is this contagious?
When our oldest son was born, he vowed to never make a comment in his presence about
his fear of heights. However, somewhere around 3-4 years old, we noticed our son becoming
anxious whenever he was lifted “too high” or when it came to climbing things like ladders or
trees. Through our personal experience, we determined that our son’s acrophobia (fear of
heights) was an inherited trait.
How do we deal with it? Baby steps. You can’t just put someone onto a hot air balloon and say “deal with it.” For us, what’s worked is patience and baby steps. Climbing up a ladder to put the star on the Christmas tree used to take him about 30 minutes. He would shakily move up one step at a time, fighting back tears, avoiding looking down to the ground as hard as he could. Now a 30-minute ordeal takes just five minutes tops, and when he looks at the beautiful star on top of the tree, he feels a sense a pride that boosts his confidence.
Trying to face fears early on helps to reduce the long lasting effects of real phobias, because the older we get, the more difficult it is to deal with these phobias.
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so have patience. I tend to take my son onto a Ferris Wheel rather than my husband, so he doesn’t sense his father’s anxiety, but there is something to be said about a child seeing their parent face a challenge head first.